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CHAPTER VI HUDSON STRIKES A SNAG
Joe Hart went to great pains to show his growing regard for Barry. He instructed him in his work as page and pointed out various ways of making himself useful to the members of Congress. One of these ways was to familiarize himself with the numerous public documents issued by the Government. Every member, said Joe, had calls for bills and reports from time to time, and if a page boy could tell a member where to put his hands on a certain paper at a given time, the value of the page would be immensely enhanced in the eyes of the member. Barry took the advice to heart and determined to profit thereby.

One morning, when Barry was on his way to the Capitol, it occurred to him that it would be a good thing to call upon Congressman Carlton and ascertain whether there was anything[Pg 71] he could do for him. He found the Congressman at his desk in his office immersed in a great heap of correspondence that was before him.

"Good morning, Mr. Carlton," said Barry. "I don't want to disturb you. I just dropped in to ask whether there was anything I could do for you before I went to the House."

The Congressman paused for a moment and looked at Barry, while he tried to recall some particular thing that he was very anxious to have done. It came to him quickly.

"By George!" he exclaimed; "you're the very boy I want. There's a big pile of Committee Reports in the next room that I would like to have sorted out and piled up in regular order. I have no doubt that most of 'em are only fit for the furnace, but I'm afraid to destroy any of 'em for fear that I may burn the very documents I need."

Barry's eyes sparkled.

"I'll be delighted to undertake the job, Mr.[Pg 72] Carlton," he said. "It's something I'm interested in, anyhow."

The Congressman stared at the boy.

"Interested? What do you mean?"

"Oh, nothing; except that Joe Hart tells me that I should become familiar with public documents of all kinds in order to increase my usefulness to members of Congress."

The Congressman clapped his hands on his flat top desk with quiet delight.

"Bully for you! If you continue in this way there's no telling where you may land. You know every boy in this country has a right to aspire even to the Presidency."

Barry reddened with embarrassment.

"Oh, Mr. Carlton, I never dreamed of anything like that."

"Of course, you haven't. No healthy boy ever really expects to reach such a great honor as that, but you can aspire to other big things. One of the oldest members of the Senate served in the position that you hold now, while a half[Pg 73] dozen members of the House were pages at your age."

"Well," said Barry, with boyish confidence, "I am certainly going to try to amount to something."

"Very good," said the Congressman, and he dismissed the boy with a wave of the hand. "Now, you go into the other room and see what you can do with that old junk."

Barry went to work with a will. He found that he had a pretty big job ahead of him, but he went at it systematically and resolutely. He took the reports according to dates and piled them up in little heaps in the order of the months and the years in which they had been printed. Occasionally he was attracted by the heading of some of the documents, and in one or two instances he was so interested that he read the reports from beginning to end. In this way several hours passed, and looking up at the clock, he discovered that it was twenty minutes of twelve. He realized that he had just about enough time to get over to the[Pg 74] House and to report for duty. He was about to go in and speak to Mr. Carlton when he heard the door open and someone came into the Congressman's room. The gentleman spoke to Mr. Carlton. Barry recognized the voice at once. It was that of the Hon. Jesse Hudson.

"Hello, Carlton," said Hudson, "when are you going to introduce that bill for a Naval Repair Station in your town?"

"I'm going to do it soon," said Carlton. "It's pretty nearly in shape for presentation."

"Good," was the response. "You can count on my help in getting it through the Committee. If you meet with any obstacles, just come to me and I will be glad to give you a lift. Are you going over to the House?"

"Not for a few minutes," was the response. "I've a couple of telegrams that I want to send out before I leave here."

"All right; I'll go over alone then. By the way," he continued, as he paused at the[Pg 75] door, "I've got a measure coming up today, and I'd like you to help me get it through."

"What is it?" asked Carlton.

"It is known as the Garner claim. A family in my district had their property destroyed during the Civil War. It seems that the Federal troops occupied their house and barn and when they got through with them they were practically ruined."

"What is the bill for?" asked Carlton.

"It is to reimburse the heirs for their loss. It calls for an appropriation of $96,000. It should have been paid long ago!"

"Who are the heirs? The children of the claimant?"

"No, not the children, but some of their relatives."

"Is it all right, Hudson?"

"Sure, it's all right."

"Well," was the slow response, "if it's a fair bill, I suppose I will have to turn in and vote for it, but I don't like to support these[Pg 76] claims for damages without knowing all about them."

"Oh, it's all right," was the confident response; "I'll see you later. Good-bye."

As he swung out of the room Felix Conway, the journalist, walked in.

"Hello, Felix," exclaimed Carlton. "You're just the man I want to see. You know everything, don't you?"

The newspaper correspondent shook his head and said, smilingly:

"No, not everything—nearly everything."

"Well," said Carlton, "I'd like to know what you can tell me about the Garner claim. It calls for an appropriation of $96,000 to repay certain heirs of the Garner family for property destroyed during the Civil War."

The journalist looked blankly at the Congressman.

"Blest if I know a thing about it. It's the first I've heard of it."

"I'm awfully sorry," said the Congressman,[Pg 77] "because I'm anxious to get some of the facts in the case."

As Felix Conway left the room Barry Wynn emerged from the little apartment where he had been sorting out and piling up the public documents.

"Mr. Carlton," he said, timidly, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation with Mr. Hudson and Mr. Conway. You were speaking to them about the Garner claim."

"I was, indeed," was the response. "You don't mean to tell me that you know anything about it?"

"Yes," was the hesitating reply, "I know a little about it."

"When did you hear of it?" was the surprised question.

"The first I heard of it was when Mr. Hudson came in," replied Barry, "but I read about it an hour ago."

"Read about it?"

"Yes; when I was going through those old papers I found a report from the[Pg 78] House Committee concerning the Garner claim."

Carlton's eyes glistened.

"Where is it? Where is it? Let me have it."

Barry went into the other room and came out again in a few moments with a small public document.

Mr. Carlton seized it eagerly and read the heading:

    "Report of the House Committee concerning a claim of the heirs of Samuel Garner for damages sustained to their property during the War of the Rebellion."

That was enough for him. He sat back in his chair and read the document from start to finish. It was an adverse report. The document was ten years old, but the Committee that had been entrusted with the investigation of the matter reported that the claim was a very doubtful one, and that in any event the heirs should be compelled to go into court for the purpose of obtaining relief.

Carlton stuffed the report in his inside[Pg 79] pocket, and slapping Barry on the back, said:

"Barry, you've done me a great favor."

Ten minutes later Carlton was at his desk in the House of Representatives, and Barry was standing by the desk of the chief clerk, waiting for the proceedings of the day to begin. At the stroke of twelve the Speaker brought his gavel down on the top of the marble block before him and called the House to order. The Chaplain made a brief prayer, and then the members from all parts of the great hall began rising in their places and presenting bills. The pages ran up one aisle and down another, with bills fluttering in their hands, rushing and laughing and tumbling about like so many little imps. Barry kept his eye on Mr. Carlton, and when that gentleman rose in his seat, made a mad rush in his direction.

"The Gentleman from Maine," called the Speaker, in a loud tone.

Whereupon Mr. Carlton presented a number of minor bills. Barry was at his elbow, and [Pg 80]taking the papers hurried to the Speaker's platform and had the satisfaction of seeing the bills referred to the various Committees of the House.

After his measures had been safely disposed of, John Carlton made a search for Jesse Hudson. He had determined to inform him that he would not support the bill in favor of the Garner heirs. When he reached Hudson's seat, he found that gentleman busily engaged in conversation with another man, but that did not deter him. He broke in between the two and said:

"Hudson, I'd like to speak to you for a moment."

The other frowned and waved his hand, saying:

"You will have to excuse me. I am very busy at present."

Carlton walked back to his own seat very much dissatisfied. Fifteen minutes later he noticed that Hudson was disengaged and walked over in his direction. The moment Hudson saw him, however, he slipped out of[Pg 81] his seat and left the House. The inference was obvious. Hudson was trying to evade Carlton. The business of the House continued for about half an hour and then the clerk, in stentorian tones, announced that the next business in order was the consideration of the bill granting relief to the heirs of Samuel Garner. Hudson was in his seat. Carlton grasped the opportunity and was by his side in an instant.

"Hudson," he said, "I've been trying to reach you all morning to tell you that I can't support—"

"Don't talk to me now," cried the other, impatiently. "Don't you see that I'm busy?"

"You can't be too busy to talk business," was the angry retort. "I want you to know that I can't support your Garner bill. I'm simply telling you this, so that you can be under no false impressions in the matter."

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Hudson, simulating a look of surprise.

"Well, I'm sorry to say the matter is that I don't think it's a fit bill to vote for."

[Pg 82]

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. After you left me this morning, I got a report of the House Committee that was made nearly ten years ago, and it seems very conclusive to me—so conclusive that I've made up my mind to fight your bill."

"Oh, you're splitting hairs," cried Hudson, in a tone of annoyance.

"Well, you can give it any name you like."

"But, see here, Carlton," cried Hudson, eagerly, "I won't ask you to vote for it if you don't feel like doing so; but promise me one thing."

"What's that?"

"Don't make a speech against it. Don't oppose it openly. It's backed by some of the most important men in my district—men who can make or break me."

"I can't make any more promises," said Carlton, and he moved slowly back to his own seat.

In the meantime the House was giving close[Pg 83] consideration to the Garner claim. Near the end of the debate Jesse Hudson arose and made a strong speech in favor of the passage of the bill. The sentiment of the House seemed strongly for the heirs. If the members had taken a vote after Hudson's speech, the chances are that the bill would have become a law. But just at that critical moment John Carlton rose in his place and was recognized by the Speaker.

"Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen," he said, with great deliberation, "before the House votes on the bill that is now pending, I desire to read a copy of the report that was made on this very claim by a Committee of this House ten years ago. The members can find the document by referring to their files, volume II, page 1072."

There was a lifting of desk lids and a scurrying of page boys, and every member in the House seemed seized with a desire to get a copy of the document in question. In the meantime John Carlton read the report in slow, measured tones. As he concluded he said:

"Mr. Speaker, I have no comment whatever[Pg 84] to make upon this report. I merely call it to your attention. For my own part, after reading that report, I cannot see my way clear to vote for this bill."

It was as though a bomb shell had been thrown into a quiet, peaceable gathering. Members stood on their feet, and talked, and gesticulated, while the Speaker vainly motioned the members to their seats. Presently, the calling of the roll brought order out of chaos. Hudson ran from one member to another imploring them to vote for his bill, but it was too late. When the vote was announced it was found that the Garner claim had been overwhelmingly defeated.

Shortly after that the House adjourned. Hudson, in leaving his seat, almost bumped against John Carlton. He looked at him with a malignant frown, and said bitterly:

"You're a fine fellow to promise to support a bill!"

"I withdrew my promise before it was too late," said the other one, quietly.

[Pg 85]

"Yes, you withdrew it, but you made me a promise all the same."

"I didn't make any promise."

"I say you did!"

"Well," said Carlton, easily, "there's no use wrangling over it. It's all over now."

Hudson doubled up his fist, and shaking it at his adversary, said:

"It's not all over. Not by a long sight! Every dog has his day, and I'll have mine sooner than you think!"

Carlton laughed.

"There's no use borrowing trouble," he said, lightly. "The dog-days won't be here for some time yet."

As they passed out of the door into the corridor of the Capitol, a third member came up to Carlton and said:

"John, were in the world did you dig up that report?"

"Oh," was the response, "it was pulled out of a pile of old junk in my office."
 
"How did you have the patience to go through that stuff?" asked the inquirer.

"I didn't," was the reply. "It was discovered for me by a very bright boy, named Barry Wynn."


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